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DVD and Blu-ray Releases for December 8th, 2009

December 8th, 2009

According to Amazon, there are about 300 DVDs and Blu-ray being released or re-released this week and about half of them are Harry Potter releases. Well, maybe not, but it almost feels that way. The only one of these that is really worth picking up is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Blu-ray; in fact, it is the DVD Pick of the Week. Also sharing that honor is The Cove on DVD, Julie & Julia on DVD or Blu-ray, and Lost - Season Five on Blu-ray. My bank account is going to take a big hit this week.

Beautiful Losers - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the DIY art movement from the 1990s born from of the skater culture. Reviews were good, but not great, with many critics complaining that the movie was a little too easy with the praise. Worth checking out for many, picking up for fans of the art form.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 1st. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Better Off Ted - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Better Off Ted takes place at Veridian Dynamics, a soulless technology corporation where they do anything for their clients from building jetpacks, to freezing employees, to weaponizing pumpkins. Huh?

The show stars Jay Harrington as the titular Ted, who is the head of research and development at Veridian Dynamics and fits in the middle of the organizational chart being a liaison between upper management and the workers. The upper manager he deals with the most is Veronica Palmer (Portia de Rossi) whom he once had an office fling with. Linda Zwordling (Andrea Anders) is the head of testing and has been working at Veridian long enough to know she hates her job but not long enough that her will to fight back has been crushed entirely. Granted, her rebellion is mostly stealing creamer, but it's something. Further down the corporate chain of command are Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem (Malcolm Barrett) two research scientists who are both brilliant scientists and excellent partners, although their interpersonal relationship is somewhat dysfunctional. The voice of reason in the series comes from Ted's seven-year old daughter, Rose, who seems to be the only one capable of recognizing a bad idea when she hears it.

The typical episode shows the interaction between the cast as they deal with the latest horror Veridian has come up with, like freezing Phil, and dealing with the consequences, like trying to get Phil not to sue. In one episode the company gets a new motion sensor technology that has one minor defect: it can't recognize black people. Each time the company tries to solve the problem, they only make it worse and come across as even more racially insensitive. The TV series isn't only about the horrors of Veridian Dynamics, but it is also has a lot character driven humor and the dynamics between Ted and Linda, Lem and Phil, etc. are a source of a great number of laughs. Speaking of laughs, there was not a single episode of season one I didn't laugh at and even the weakest episode (the pilot) has high replay value. Speaking of the pilot... Pumpkin can also be used to make awesome curry soup. (That comment makes more sense if you've seen the show.)

One last note, Rachelle Lefevre makes a guest appearance on the season finale and I really hope she will return for more episodes. I doubt she will, but I hope so.

Here's where we get to the bad news. There are no extras on this two-disc set. Granted, the show was a midseason replacement that barely earned renewal, but I was hoping for more.

Better Off Ted started last march and has four time slots over of the course of its 13 episodes. With that kind of treatment there's no surprise that the show barely survived to a second season. Hopefully it will have a more stable run this time around. If you have seen the show, then you will likely agree that there's enough replay value here that season one is worth picking up even without extras. If you haven't seen the show, it is worth a blind buy.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: AC/DC - No Bull, The Alphabet Killer, Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Coraline - Gift Set, Cyclops, George Michael - Live in London, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Jack Brooks - Monster Slayer, Julie & Julia, Knut & Friends, Lost - Season Five, Lost - Season Five - Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit, Lost - Five Season Set, The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon, Lower Learning, Pink - Funhouse Tour, Public Enemies, Red Mist, Rush - R30, Sands of Oblivion, UFC - 100 Greatest Fights, Walled In, While She Was Out, and World's Greatest Dad
Wow. There are a number of prime Blu-ray releases this week, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Lost, etc. But there is also a huge flood of lesser releases. Some are low-budget movies that are still worth checking out, like Jack Brooks - Monster Slayer. Others are low-budget films that are best avoided. In fact, most are low-budget films that are best avoided.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: Andrea Bocelli & David Foster - My Christmas, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, A Jersey Christmas, and The National Tree
We are coming to the end of the Christmas releases and there's not much here worth checking out. I do like the premise behind A Jersey Christmas, which is about a group of people who don't celebrate Christmas, but have to endure it thanks to their jobs as store clerks. I might have to give that one a blind buy, because I know the feeling. At least I work from home and don't have to listen to Christmas muzak while writing about endless Christmas releases for more than three months of the year.

The Cove - Buy from Amazon
One of the documentaries that is on the Oscar short list, and after watching it, there's almost no doubt in my mind that it will grab one of the nominations.

The Cove tells the story of the Japanese dolphin catchers in Taiji, who catch dolphins to supply the multi-billion dollar aquatic entertainment industry, as well as butcher them for meat. It is part documentary and part thriller that shows Ric O'Barry and his team of activists traveling to Japan to document the dolphin harvest in Taiji. The government officials and the local fishermen know that if the world at large saw images of what was happening, the pressure to stop would be too great. The secret agent footage is certainly something you don't normally see in this genre of film and it gets your heart pumping. Meanwhile, the ending will do something else to you. Powerful is an understatement.

Some of the critiques I've read of this movie have been interesting, including several critics who have claimed that the film is racist. If you listen to the audio commentary track, director Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens repeatedly state that this is not an anti-Japanese film and that they believe this is happening because most Japanese don't know that it is going on. In fact, they call the two local officials that get dolphin meat removed from the school lunches heroes. The other main complaint I've seen is that it is too one sided. This is not a valid complaint for two reasons. Firstly, it's an advocacy documentary; it is advocating a point a view. To complain that it is not giving equal weight to the other side just shows you don't understand the sub-genre. Secondly, what's the other side? Maybe we can ignore the capturing of intelligent animals and forcing them to live in prisons that shorten their lives through stress, because some might argue that there is scientific value in studying dolphins in captivity. (Although the scientific value of teaching a dolphin to throw a ball through a hope seems dubious, at best.) But there is no arguing that the dolphins are being killed for food in a brutal way, not the humane way the government claims. The dolphin meat has to be given away to school kids or is sold as whale meat because there is no demand for it in Japan. And, the dolphin meat is unsafe to eat. What's the other side? Are you seriously going to argue that it is acceptable to serve poisoned meat to school kids?

(I will say that linking mercury to the autism "epidemic" is specious. In fact, I'm not sure there is an epidemic of autism. I think that previously a lot of people with autism went undiagnosed because the doctors of the day didn't know how to recognize the symptoms. Autism would have been diagnosed as low-level mental retardation, using the terminology of the day.)

Extras on the DVD start with the audio commentary featuring the director, Louie Psihoyos, and the producer, Fisher Stevens. The film is clearly a project of passion for these two and it shows. Next up are five short featurettes running a total of 9 minutes on the covert (and not so covert) cameras they used in the movie. Very cool. There are five-and-a-half minutes of footage of freediving, which is diving without a breathing apparatus. There are three deleted scenes running a total of 10 minutes, and finally a making of / additional information featurette that is nearly 20 minutes. All of it is worth checking out and adds serious replay value to the DVD as a whole.

If The Cove isn't nominated for an Oscar I will be stunned. The fact that it won the National Film Board award for Best Documentary could be a sign that is it the favorite to win the Oscar. It is an incredibly powerful movie and the extras on the DVD lift it from a solid buy to a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th of November. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Food Beware - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the food industry and its negative effects on our health and what some in France are trying to do change the state of affairs. The film earned mixed reviews and went nowhere at the box office. It is with this on my mind that I went into this film. So how does the film compare to its Tomatometer Score and its box office performance?

Director Jean-Paul Jaud takes a look at the state of the food industry in France and how in France, and indeed in a lot of places, the generation currently growing up will be the first in modern history that is less healthy than their parents. He traces this phenomenon to the food being fed to kids, which is loaded with unhealthy additives and toxins. Canned veggies, for instance, are loaded with such stuff as lead (they also tend to have a lot of sodium, but that's not mentioned in the movie, it's just something I've noticed while trying to limit sodium in my diet). The overuse of pesticides and "chemical" fertilizers are also looked at as factors, while the organic movement is seen as a way forward. The director takes a more passive role in the documentary, as opposed to be front and center like Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock would and the film is mostly talking heads. Depending on your personal preference this could be a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, many people think the way Michael Moore makes himself the center of every film he makes is a distraction. On the other hand, few would claim his films are not engaging, while this film is perhaps not as cinematic as it could be.

I also have some issue with the arguments put forth. The film makes organic food out to be some kind of ambrosia, but it doesn't make a compelling case. Not too long ago there was an outbreak of food poisoning in the United States that was traced to organic spinach. But how could this happen? It was organic, shouldn't it be safe and healthy? Well, it turns out that the corporation growing the spinach was using untreated sewage as fertilizer, which is technically organic, but also unsafe. This is where the situation becomes decidedly less clear than the film implies, but it also would be an excellent subject for a film like this to tackle. Some artificial fertilizers might be safer and more ecologically sound than alternatives than can be labeled organic and discussing that could make the movie seem more even-handed and therefore more compelling.

That said, overall the film is still worth checking out despite the flaws.

Disappointingly, there are no extras on the DVD.

Food Beware is not the most cinematic documentary I've reviewed in my career... It's not even the most cinematic documentary I've reviewed this week. It is worth checking out but without extras on the DVD, it is probably best to start with a rental.

The Fugitive - Season Three - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
The first of three split-season TV on DVD releases coming out this week. Of the three, this is the one I find the most acceptable, after all, the full season would be 8 discs long, which is a bit much. It still means a higher price per minute than I would like for TV on DVD releases, but does the quality of the show justify this?

The 4-disc set starts off on a mixed note with Dr. Richard Kimble meeting up with an old friend, an anti-smog crusader who is dying and wants to send one last powerful message. It's a good episode, for the most part, but there is a character called Joey that is so annoying that by the end I was hoping that someone would accidentally run him over. Wife Killer is arguably the most important episode on this DVD. It starts with the death of a Senator's wife and the local police round up all of the transients from the area, which includes a one-armed man. Once a local reporter writes a story about it, Richard Kimble arrives on the scene to check it out, while Lieutenant Philip Gerard does the same. In this episode, Dr. Richard Kimble gets as close to his quarry as he's ever been, but since this isn't the series finale, you know something prevents him from clearing his name. Mickey Rooney has a guest appearance in This'll Kill You, which is one of about a dozen major guest appearances on this four-disc set. Lee Meriwether, Kevin McCarthy, Donald Pleasence, Kurt Russell, Beau Bridges, Telly Savalas, etc. are all featured in episodes on this DVD.

There are no extras on the DVD, nor are there subtitles, but there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

The Fugitive is one of the most famous TV shows of all time and the quality of the episodes on the Season Three - Volume Two are outstanding. I continue to have complaints about splitting the season into two volumes, while the lack of extras is also disappointing given this show's place in TV history. That said, it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Get Smart - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
Stick with the full series Megaset that was already released. It's not a better value on a price per minute basis, but it has extras.

Ghosted - Buy from Amazon
A German / Taiwanese co-production about a German artist, Inga Busch, trying to get over the recent death of her Taiwanese lover, Huan-Ru Ke, while starting a relationship with a reporter, Ting Ting Hu. The lesbian angle is the most unique aspect of this mystery movie, but mixed reviews suggest it's not enough.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD Edition, Two-Disc Limited Edition DVD, or Blu-ray
When a franchise reaches six installments, it becomes very hard to come up with new things to talk about when discussing it. Either you've already pre-ordered it, or you don't care. Fans of the series should be happy with the latest installment, as its reviews were better than 80% positive. There are three versions of the movie coming out this week, including a Single-Disc DVD Edition that costs just $10. However, the Blu-ray is only $15 and it includes the DVD as well as the Blu-ray and a digital copy. Easily the best deal and easily a Pick of the Week. Also coming out this week are box sets on DVD or Blu-ray, but don't buy these unless you are new to Blu-ray and want to make the upgrade now. They may seem like a really good deal, but there will be other box sets released after Deathly Hallows One & Two reach the home market. There might even be two or three box sets. Or three or four. The same advice goes for the special editions of Philospher's Stone on DVD and Blu-ray and Chamber of Secrets on DVD or Blu-ray. ... I did warn you that there were a lot of Harry Potter releases coming out this week, and I didn't even mention the full-screen editions.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th of November. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Intrepid Descent - Buy from Amazon
A short documentary on the Tuckerman Ravine in Mount Washington in the White Mountains and its history within the sport of extreme skiing.

Filmmakers Erik Osterholm and Zander Hartburg create a love letter to Mount Washington and the people who love to ski the Tuckerman Ravine, which has been going on for nearly a century now. This film gets into the history of the Ravine, including talking to some people who skied it before the craze of "extreme skiing" started in the 1980s and 1990s. But for the most part, the film just has people who ski the slopes today talking about what makes the experience so amazing while the filmmakers show the incredible scenes these skiers get to experience. The cinematography is amazing while you do get a sense of community among these skiers. (On a side note, one of the people interviewed actually said that enthusiasts of the sport will actually cheer louder if your run ends with you rolling down the mountain than if you make it all the way down on your skis. You do get the sense that it's, "Good show, better luck next time!" and not a, "Ha ha!" kind of cheer, but it sounds funny.) The only complaint I have is the running time. It's only 25 minutes long and it leaves you wanting more.

And more is not what you will get from the extras. There are some, director's notes, bios, images gallery and an ad for the New England Ski Museum, but that's hardly a lot of value added features.

If you are a fan of extreme skiing, or even if you are new to the sport, Intrepid Descent is worth checking out. However, with a short running time and no major extras, the DVD makes a better rental than a purchase.

Julie & Julia - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Meryl Streep and Amy Adams team up for the first time since Doubt, which came out in theaters this time last year. Amazingly, this movie earned almost as impressive reviews despite the fact that the earlier film was clearly Oscar bait. This just goes to show what great actresses Streep and Adams are; they really do lift any movie they are part of. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, retrospective on Julia Child, a couple of episodes of Julia Child's cooking shows, and more. Meanwhile the Blu-ray has all of that, plus it is BD-Live enabled. The online feature here lets you sign up to receive any recipe seen on screen in your e-mail box. How inventive is that? Granted, these are French recipes from the 1960s, so most people today will freak over the calorie count, but it is still a cool idea. Easily worth picking up, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week, except the DVD costs just $10 and the Blu-ray costs $26. You can also get the DVD with a shopping bag or The Way to Cook.

Lion's Den - Buy from Amazon
A woman murders two men, including the father of her unborn baby. Now she has to struggle to raise her newborn baby in jail while preventing her mother from taking her kid away. Excellent reviews were not enough for the film, which struggled at the box office. Worth checking out, but the lack of extras means you might want to start with a rental first.

Lost - Season Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The penultimate season of this critically acclaimed series hits the home market this week. One of the biggest releases of the week, how does the Blu-ray stack up? Check out the featured review here.

I do have two updates. Firstly, I didn't mention the Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit, which can be purchased on DVD or Blu-ray. These include the normal DVD / Blu-ray, as well as physical extras, like the letter of truce between Alpert and Goodspeed, the DVD covers look like floppy discs, etc. It's fun, but it does cost quite a bit more.

The second update is the Lost University, which went online on Tuesday. Here you sign up for classes, learn more about some of the background information on some of the concepts dealt with in the series, and do homework and take tests. Yes. There's homework to do and tests to take. On the one hand, it's easy to see that this is one of the most in-depth BD-Live extras I've ever seen. Unfortunately, I have to wait two more days to check out class two for most of my courses, so I will have to update the review next week.

...

I thought my days of doing homework were behind me.

Moonlight Serenade - Buy from Amazon
I think it is fair to say this movie is coming out on DVD to take advantage of the release of Julie & Julia, which also stars Amy Adams. It was made in 2006 but it is finally getting a release this week, albeit direct-to-DVD. With no reviews I wouldn't risk anything more than a rental, and that's only if you a fan of the cast.

Warning: This Blu-ray / DVD combo pack does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 1st. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack, Three-Disc Blu-ray
While this movie came out last week in three different editions, I only have the Three-Disc Blu-ray. I'll try and muddle through what each edition has.

The film begins sometime after the events of the original. Larry Daley is no longer a night watchman at the American Museum of Natural History, he is the head of Daley Devices, a company that makes and sells his inventions through horrible infomercials. But while he is successful, he is unfulfilled. While visiting the American Museum of Natural History, he learns that many of the exhibits he encountered last time around are now being packed up and sent into storage. However, the Tablet and Pharaoh Ahkmenrah won't be making the journey, so for most it will be the last time they will come to life. At least that's what the plan was. Instead Dexter the monkey (sorry, Capuchin) stole the Tablet and Ahkmenrah's older brother, Kahmunrah, is planning on using The Golden Tablet Of Ahkmenrah and inserting it into the The Gate Of Kahmunrah to raise an army from the Underworld. Now Larry has to travel to Washington, D.C. and with the help of some of his old friends, and new ones, he must stop Kahmunrah.

As a sequel, this film will inevitably be compared with the original. In some ways the movie does show improvement, mostly thanks to the addition of Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart. She is by far the best part of this movie and she lifted every scene she was in. (Although I didn't think her chemistry with Ben Stiller was that good, as he seemed to be on auto-pilot at times.) The only other addition that was a positive was Bill Hader as General Custer, who had many great scenes, mostly with Sacajawea playing the straight man to his overconfident buffoon. On the other hand, a lot of the new additions, and many of the returning characters, were little more than cameos that only made the movie bigger, not better. (Some felt like they were outright replacements, like the giant octopus, which served the same purpose as the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the first movie.) In fact, this is my number one complaint about the movie. It is so big that the parts that do work seem squeezed by the parts that don't. The story itself has a few issues as well. For instance, the plot of a successful man who has lost his way because he is not doing what he loves is too much of a cliché. I especially dislike the concept that if someone has a cell phone that rings a lot, they must have misplaced priorities. That said the movie has plenty of energy and should entertain its target audience well enough to be worth checking out, and if your kids liked the first movie enough that you bought it, then this one is worth buying as well.

Moving onto the three home market versions, things start with the Single-Disc Edition, which I assume is the same as the DVD that is part of the Three-Disc Blu-ray. If so, it has two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director and the second with the two writers. The first one being a solo track tends to be a little drier, but gives more details when it comes to the actual filming process. On the other hand, the two writers seem to be having a lot more fun. Next up is a 20-minute making-of featurette, while there is a shorter featurette on Hank Azaria trying to find his voice for Kahmunrah, and a faux-featurette on The Jonas Brothers' role as the three cherubs. Finally, there are six deleted scenes with optional audio commentary track, and eight minutes of outtakes.

The Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack has three featurettes on the monkey featured in the movie and two DVD-ROM games / activities. Not a lot more for 25% extra.

The Three-Disc Blu-ray has most of the above (I can't find the games) as well as a lot of exclusive extras. This includes the Scavenger Hunt Mode, where click one of four colored buttons when you spot artifacts and people in the movie. Historical Confessions has a lot of the actors talking in character about themselves, while Cavemen Conversations is similar, but less intelligible. Directing 201 is a 19-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with Shawn Levy. Shawn Levy is also featured in Gangster Levy, which is a very short featurette on the making of the clip used in the gangster exhibit. Museum Magic is a making of featurette on the making of the photograph scene. Secret Doors and Scientists spends 16 minutes at the real museum. There are the six deleted scenes from the DVD, as well as six additional deleted scenes exclusive to the Blu-ray. Finally, there are two Fox Movie Channel Presents extras, which are presented in Standard Definition. Making a Scene talks about the scene at the aerospace museum while World Premiere is pretty self-explanatory. This is a huge amount of additional material, some of which pushes the technology, and all for the same price as the Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack. If you are interested in the movie, this is the only way to go.

For fans of the first movie, Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian mostly maintains the same quality level. At times it feels like the filmmakers got caught up trying to make it bigger, but didn't do enough to make it better. Enough does work that it should entertain its target audience, while the Three-Disc Blu-ray has excellent value for the price.

Perry Mason - Season Four - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
The latest Perry Mason DVD release. Since Perry Mason is arguably the most famous legal show of all time, there's little that needs to be said about the overall set up. But we will start with a quick rundown of the main cast. The show stars Raymond Burr as defense attorney Perry Mason, William Hopper as his trusted private investigator Paul Drake, and Barbara Hale as Della Street, who was more than just Perry Mason's secretary. Going head-to-head with the trio is William Talman as Hamilton Burger, who manages to compile a record of 1 win in 208 episodes, and Ray Collins as Lieutenant Tragg, whose track record is only slightly better, because in the end of some of the episodes he's able to arrest the guilty party before they confess.

Each episode typically has the same basic setup. In the first half we meet the cast, including the soon-to-be victim and Perry Mason's prospective client, as well as many, many potential killers. In the second half, the show switches to the courtroom drama where Hamilton Burger first puts on a damning case before Perry Mason destroys it so thoroughly that the guilty party confesses, even if they are not on the stand at the time. (If I was guilty of killing someone and someone else was on trail, I wouldn't show up to watch, by the way.) It does have a formula that can seem repetitive, especially watching the series in a marathon session on DVD; however, there is a huge variety of cases that can be explored within this basic setup and the show never seems too repetitive during either half of this season.

For instance, this 3-disc set starts with The Case of the Wintry Wife, in which a wife plants a bomb to destroy her husband's invention to prevent him from divorcing her. But when she turns up dead, her nurse, and the woman her husband was leaving her for, is charged with her murder. The Case of the Blind Man's Bluff involves a heist where the shopkeeper at a jewelry store plans to steal from his boss. The twist is he will do it the day of his operation that will leave him blind, which should be the perfect alibi. He's been practicing for weeks and is able to pull off the crime, but when someone kills him and steals the jewelry, Perry Mason has to defend the man who is accused of being his accomplice. The Case of the Cowardly Lion involves a stolen gorilla, blackmail, smuggling, immigration fraud, and bigamy. Huh? It's overly complicated, but a fun watch. Another overly complicated episode is The Case of the Duplicate Daughter, which involves more blackmail... I would like to take the time to tell all our readers that you should never blackmail anyone, because that's a sure why to get murdered. In addition to blackmail, there's a huge inheritance, as well as a secret lineage.

On a side note, in the episode The Case of the Barefaced Witness Adam West has a guest appearance. I love watching these old shows to see if I can spot stars doing guest spots before they were famous, but this was the only one I really noticed this time around.

The good news here is all of the episodes here are worth checking out and most have good replay value. Bad news, there are no extras, and there are only 12 episodes on this three-disc set, which puts the price-per-minute on the unacceptably high level. Additionally, there are no subtitles but there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

Perry Mason... Love the show, hate the DVD releases. Season Four - Volume Two has just 12 episodes on three discs for $30, and that's with Amazon's discount. I'm really glad that I get the chance to review them, but I would not be happy buying them at this price. Had the show had a full season arc that made watching the episodes in order important, maybe buying would be worth it. But as it is, I suggest renting them now, while you hope for a full series Megaset at a more reasonable price.

Plaguers - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD Sci-fi horror film about space pirates that hijack a ship only to become infected by a mysterious artifact that turns them into zombies. Zombie Pirates. ... If you are looking for high quality filmmaking, look elsewhere. If you are looking for B-movie fun, you could do worse.

Public Enemies - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
The latest Michael Mann film had a lot of buzz going in, and given its cast that's no surprise. However, while the reviews were good, they were not as good as the review for Heat or The Insider, for instance. It did come very close to hitting the $100 million mark domestically, but just under $100 million domestically is not a lot for a movie that cost just over $100 million to make, and that's before global P&A, which could have been another $100 million. It is very likely still in the red, but it should take a serious bite out of these losses on the home market and I recommend buying the movie. The question is which version. The Single-Disc DVD is good for a rental, while the Blu-ray is cheaper than the Two-Disc DVD and has plenty of exclusives, including a picture-in-picture track, interactive mode, etc. Add in the features from the DVD, and it is worth buying and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Rescue Me - Season Five - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that is really well done, but sometimes hard to watch. I don't like splitting the season into two volumes, but perhaps the extras will be enough to compensate. I won't know for sure until the screener arrives.

Shank - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated
An in the closet gang member has to deal with the repercussions when he falls in love with an exchange student who was targeted by his fellow gang members for a hate crime. First time director Simon Pearce is earning mixed reviews, but its target audience might be interested, if they can handle the high level of violence in the movie.

The Skeptic - Buy from Amazon
I would love to see movies about skeptics where they are eventually proven right. That was one of my favorite parts of the old Scooby Doo cartoons. However, this movie has a lot more problems than the cliché of the skeptic turned true believer and even if you are a fan of the cast, it's best to give this one a pass.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Season Six - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
Oh for the love of... How many SpongeBob DVDs are they planning on releasing?

Alright. Normally when it comes to TV on DVD releases I start by reviewing the episodes found on that DVD. But in this case, I don't have to, since I've reviewed them all previously. The two-disc set starts with Spongicus, which I was part of the DVD of the same name that I reviewed here. It also includes Vs. the Big One, which I reviewed here and To SquarePants or Not To SquarePants, which I reviewed here. In total there are 23 episodes, including one double-length episode, and of those a little more than a dozen are hits. It's not a great hit to miss ratio as the show has had in the past, but it is not terrible either.

Extras on the previous three DVD releases included some images, a short commentary by Plankton, and a music video. This time around there is a music video about the history of SpongeBob. There are also seven bonus "shorts," but they are really just 30-second TV spots.

As I predicted before, Season Six - Volume One is much cheaper than the individual DVDs. In fact, it is less than half the price. However, it didn't keep all of the extras, which is a shame. Then again, the only extras that were really worth it were found on the The Big One DVD. It is actually cheaper to buy Season Six - Volume One and The Big One to get all of the real extras, and double-up on a third of the episodes, than it is to buy all three of the separate DVDs. I wouldn't recommend it, but it is a better option than buying all three DVDs separately.

Warning!!! Pedophile Released - Buy from Amazon
Every once and a while you come across a name that makes you stop and take notice. Usually when this happens, I do a little bit of research and realize the name is the only interesting part of the movie. Here, the movie does have an interesting premise. Shane Ryan stars (and writes and directs) as Malachi, a man who may or may not have had a sexual relationship with a 12-year old girl, Echo (played by Kai Lanette, who also co-wrote) when he was 18. They claim they are soul mates and never did any more than kissing, but he was sentenced to jail and 6 years later they try and reunite. But the years have not been kind to either person, with Echo suffering worse attacks, including being raped and thrown out by her family for being promiscuous. It's a difficult film to watch, not only because of the subject matter, but also the limited budget means it is technically not up to par. Add in a DVD with no extras and the value is limited to a rental. And even then many people won't be able to get through it all.

World's Greatest Dad - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Hmmm.... Bobcat Goldthwait could have a career as a director after all. I'm not sure he's interested in making anything commercial, mind you, but that's another issue.

Robin Williams stars as Lance Clayton, an unpublished author and less than inspirational teacher whose poetry class is barely attracting any attention at the high school where he works. His girlfriend, Claire, doesn't want to publicly acknowledge their relationship. And worst of all, his son, Kyle, hate his guts. Then again, Kyle hates everyone. Perhaps that's why he only has one friend, whom he treats poorly. After Kyle accidentally kills himself by... well, I won't say here, even though most people reading this will be aware of that spoiler, Lance cleans up and makes it look like a suicide, in order to spare his son embarrassment. He even writes a suicide note. At first no one really cares about Kyle's death, that is until his suicide note is published in the school newspaper. Now everyone's opinion of him changes and people who ignored him just a few weeks ago have deluded themselves into thinking they were kindred spirits. Since this is the first time his writing has touched anyone, Lance writes a journal of Kyle's final days, but what starts as a father's attempt to protect his son after death turning into an attempt in cashing, it is only a matter of time before it all blows up.

This film earned excellent reviews but went almost nowhere at the box office. After watching the movie, my opinion fits somewhere between those two extremes. The film comes in three acts. In the first we are introduced to Lance and Kyle. The former is best described as someone who has been beaten down by life and has stopped fighting back. The latter is a misanthrope to the extreme who is motivated by a general disdain for world in general, his life in specific, and his father to the extreme. In the middle act Kyle dies and Lance copes in part by writing the suicide note, which affects people a lot more than he anticipated. The final act is a social satire about the desire for fame and the canonization of the dead. The first act is hard to watch at times, because Kyle is such a douche. The second act is the most successful. But the satire in the third act tends to hurt the believability of the movie as a whole. Overall the movie was good, really good, but perhaps not 85% positive good and I would have liked it if its serious and more realistic tone were maintained throughout the whole film.

On a side note, I would like to address something Bobcat Goldthwait mentioned in the audio commentary track when discussed Kyle as a character and how he would rather make movies with flawed characters than those who are "sitcom happy." I agree with him for the most part, but there is a difference between having a comedy with flawed characters, and having a main character that is totally unlikable. That said, this movie wouldn't have worked had Kyle merely been a "likable loser." He really had to be horrible and (nearly) without friends for the film to make sense in the second and third acts.

Extras on the DVD start with the aforementioned audio commentary track, which has a solo track that is better than most. He mentions that some people have complained that he talks to much in his audio commentary track, which to me is a completely ludicrous complaint, because the only reason to listen to the audio commentary track is if the participants talk. It's not like he spends the track merely describing what is happening on screen and saying things anyone who watched the movie should have understood, but he talks about why he made the movie, his inspirations, etc. Worth checking out. Next up are five deleted scenes with a total running time of four minutes and four bits of outtakes that run two minutes. There are two behind-the-scenes / making-of featurettes that run a total of 23 minutes. Finally, there's a music video.

I don't have the Blu-ray, but I can say it costs 40% more and has no additional special features, and this is also not the type of film you need to see in High Definition to appreciate.

World's Greatest Dad is a black comedy, which right away means its target audience is rather limited. It is

Filed under: Video Releases, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Public Enemies, Julie & Julia, Coraline, The Cove, World's Greatest Dad, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Beautiful Losers, While She Was Out, Lion's Den, The Skeptic, Lower Learning, Walled In, Moonlight Serenade, Plaguers, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, Shank, Food Beware, The Alphabet Killer